Bail bonds: What are they and how do they work?
You’ve just been arrested and taken to jail. But how long will you have to be there? Trials often take place months or even years after the initial arrest. The following will offer a quick overview of the basics of bail bonds so that you will not have to sit in jail any longer than you need to.
What is a bail bond?
“Bail” refers to the procedure by which courts allow someone accused of a crime to leave jail while they wait for their trial date. Essentially, it is a payment temporarily made to the court to allow someone out of jail until their trial and acts as an assurance that the arrestee will appear at trial. (TX CCP Art. 17.01)
Before going any further, it is important to understand the different terminology regarding bail. To make bail, an accused needs a “Bail Bond.” A bail bond is a writing in which the court tells the accused that he can leave jail for now but must be back on a certain date in exchange for something from the accused. What the court gets from the accused can be in the form of a cash bond, surety bond, or a personal bond. (TX CCP Art. 17.02).
Why hire an attorney before you pay a bond?
First and foremost, you will have no idea if the bond that was set on your loved one’s case is reasonable or not. An attorney will be able to determine whether the bond is within the range customary to your location. While the bond schedule is listed below, it is not a reflection of how judges typically address aggravating and mitigating factors unique to an individual. If the bond is excessive, the attorney can ask for the bond to be reduced. This could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Second, there may be ways to secure a person’s release without a bond, including personal recognizance bonds, and release for mental health supervision.
What is a cash bond?
A cash bond is a payment in cash by the accused for the full amount of bond set by the magistrate. The arrestee will pay either with their own assets or with assets borrowed from friends or family. The arrestee will pay the court up front, be released from jail, and will be refunded completely when they fully comply with their obligation to show up to court.
What is a surety bond?
The most common type of bail bond, and the kind that most people think of when hearing the term bail bond, is a surety bond. A surety bond is when someone other than the accused accepts liability for ensuring the accused returns to court. This other person is referred to as a surety. Often, the surety is a bail bondsman. Bail bondsmen charge a fee to use their services. The cost of a bail bond will depend on the risk that the bondsman is taking on. Someone who is a flight risk, not from the area, or has a very high bond amount is likely to pay a greater percentage than a person who lives and works locally charged with a lower level offense. The accused will not get money paid to a bondsman back, it is the bondsman’s charge for allowing the accused to use their service. In this situation, the accused can merely pay the bondsman’s fee rather than the full bond amount and the bail bondsman will use their own property to pay for the full amount of bond. In this situation, once the accused has fully complied with their obligation to return to court, they will not receive a refund as they did not post any of their own property to the bond. Instead, the surety will be refunded. Be aware that the surety will have a financial interest in making sure that the accused appears at court when required. If the accused fails to appear, the surety may send bounty hunters to find the accused in addition to the police the court will send after the accused for failing to appear.
|Cash Bond||Surety Bond|
|Post the entire bond amount.||Pay a percentage of the bond amount to the bondsman.|
|More expensive.||Less expensive.|
|The amount posted is refunded to you after the case is resolved.||The bondsman's fees are nonrefundable.|
|The only bond conditions are those set by the judge.||A bondsman may have additional reporting requirements. If you do not comply with those conditions, the bondsman can ask to be released from your bond.|
|You assume the risk of the person who is bonded out fleeing or never returning to court.||The bondsman assumes the risk of the person who is bonded out fleeing or never returning to court.|
What is a personal recognizance bond?
The final type of bond is a personal recognizance bond, also known as a “P.R. bond.” This is where the court releases someone from jail without making them post a cash or surety bond. Here, the accused’s promise to return is accepted as the bond. Personal bonds are often given after an accused has been deemed likely to return after an interview with a pre-trial release program. Do note that for some crimes (including capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, and aggravated robbery among others) the magistrate will not be able to authorize a personal bond. Only the court in which the case is pending can authorize a personal bond in those cases. (TX CCP Art. 17.03).
What does a magistrate do when it comes to bonds?
The law requires an arrestee to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. At this hearing the magistrate has several duties to perform. Most of those duties relate to informing the accused of their rights. The magistrate also determines if a bond should be set, and what the bond should be set at. (TX CCP Art. 15.17)
The magistrate will first determine whether the accused is eligible for bail and, if so, will then set the amount of bond. (TX CCP Art. 15.17) The accused may not be eligible for bail if he has been accused of a capital offense or in a multitude of scenarios involving prior felonies or commission of crimes while on bail already or while on probation. (TX Constitution Art. 1 §11 – 11a)
What rules govern how the amount of bond is fixed?
The US and Texas Constitutions both provide that bail shall not be excessive. In order to help determine what a fair bond amount should be, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure lays out five rules for magistrates to use.
- First, bail should be sufficiently high to guarantee the accused will actually come back for their court date.
- Second, the bond amount should not be so high so as to merely be an instrument of oppression.
- Third, the magistrate should consider the nature and circumstances of the offense. The more severe the crime is, the higher the bail amount can be.
- Fourth, the amount of bail should be such that the accused can actually pay it. Magistrates are not supposed to set an amount that would be impossible for the accused to pay. And fifth, the magistrate may consider the safety of the alleged victim and the community. Therefore if they feel that the accused is likely a threat to someone, they can make the bail higher. (TX CCP Art. 17.15)
Additionally, the magistrate may set conditions on the bond. The magistrate is allowed to set any reasonable conditions related to the safety of the alleged victim or the community. (TX CCP Art. 17.40) Magistrates can also, among other things, require an accused not to talk to or go near a child, require drug testing, require the submission of a DNA sample, or require home confinement or electronic monitoring. (TX CCP Art. 17.41 – 17.49)
Bail Amounts for Crimes
There is no particular bond amount for any given offense. In fact, one of the most common criticisms of the bond system in Texas is the unpredictability and lack of consistency in bond amounts. To reduce these problems some jurisdictions have published recommended bond schedules. These are merely recommendations and bonds are often set higher based on aggravating factors such as criminal history or risk of flight.
Recommended Bond Schedule Tarrant County
|Offense Level||No Criminal History|
|State Jail Felony||$1,500|
|Third Degree Felony||$2,500|
|Second Degree Felony (Non-3G)||$5,000|
|Second Degree Felony (3G)||$10,000|
|First Degree Felony||$25,000|
Recommended Bond Schedule Dallas County
|Offense Level||No Priors||1 Prior||2 or More Priors||Currently on Felony Bond or Parole||Currently on Felony Probation or Immigration Hold|
|State Jail Felony||$500||$1,500||$5,000||$50,000||$50,000|
If on State Jail Probation and new case is also a SJ offense: $10,000
|Third Degree Felony||$1,500||$3,500||$25,000||$50,000||$50,000|
|Third Degree Family Violence / Violation of Protective Order||$15,000||$25,000||$50,000||$50,000||$100,000|
|Second Degree Agg. Assault Family Violence||$15,000-$25,000||$25,000 to $50,000||$50,000||$50,000||$100,000|
|Second Degree Aggravated Assault (Non-Family Violence)||$2,500-$25,000||$5,000-$25,000||$25,000||$25,000||$100,000|
|Other Second Degree||$2,500 - $25,000||$5,000 - $25,000||$25,000||$25,000||$100,000|
|First Degree Felony||$5,000||$15,000||$50,000||$50,000||$100,000|
|First Degree Aggravated Assault||$50,000||$50,000||$100,000||$100,000||$100,000|
How long can you be kept on a warrantless arrest?
In the case of a warrantless arrest, there are special rules involving bail. In the case of an arrest in which there was a warrant, a magistrate has already determined that there is probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime. This is not so in the case of a warrantless arrest and the magistrate will be required to determine probable cause.
If someone is arrested for a misdemeanor, the magistrate must make a probable cause determination within 24 hours of arrest. If that determination is not made, the accused must be released on a bond not to exceed $5,000. But if the accused cannot obtain a surety or deposit the full amount of the bond, they must still be released on a personal bond.
If someone is arrested for a felony, the magistrate must make a probable cause determination within 48 hours of arrest. If that determination is not made, the accused must be released on a bond not to exceed $10,000. But if the accused cannot obtain a surety or deposit the full amount of the bond, they must still be released on a personal bond. (TX CCP Art. 17.033)
This has been an overview of just the basics regarding bail bonds. For further information or if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney call Varghese Summersett PLLC at (817) 203-2220.